Chicago City Attorney Jessica Felker Pitches a Whopper
City attorneys hang detectives out to dry, again
It is hard to imagine a more humiliating task for a lawyer in Chicago than coming before the City Council and advising the not-very-august body to pay out millions to a former prison inmate who claims he was falsely convicted of murder.
It takes a steel stomach and the entire storehouse of legal mumbo jumbo for a member of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel office to get through the ordeal and justify not going to trial in an exoneration case. Deputy Corporation Counsel Jessica Felker apparently drew the short lot two weeks ago when she advised councilmembers to settle for $25 million to two men, Tyrone Hood and Wayne Washington, convicted, then “exonerated” for the 1993 murder of Marshall Morgan Jr., a student-athlete at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
As big a charade as ever put forth before a supposedly free and democratic city, Felker’s presentation amounted to one simple theme: Chicago Police officers who have done their duty are little more than pawns in a sickening media and legal drama.
One of the most difficult tasks for Felker is balancing her recommendation to settle with the substance of motions filed by city attorneys throughout the discovery portion of the case. Fortunately for Felker, no aldermen, and certainly no member of the press, brought up the evidence cited in these motions in which it is clear the attorneys for the detectives did not buy the claims that Hood and Washington are innocent or that former detectives coerced a confession from them.
In those motions, attorneys representing Chicago spelled out what every officer and prosecutor in Chicago knows: The exoneration of the two men, like so many others, was a media driven fantasy. City attorneys spent many months addressing the media’s coverage, including dragging media members into depositions to explain their coverage. For police, dragging reporters into court was a hopeful sign that after decades of pointing out that the exoneration movement is largely a product of an activist — which is to say utterly corrupt — media, city attorneys finally began hauling reporters into depositions and making them account for their stories. Those hopes are dashed with the city’s decision to settle, leaving Chicago’s renegade media free to impose even more chaos and injustice on Chicago.
Another lost opportunity in the case was spotlighting the conduct of former Governor Pat Quinn after city attorneys spent more than a year dragging Quinn into a deposition to explain his reasoning for commuting the sentences of the two men in the case. The false media narratives were, according to the attorneys, the only real impetus justifying Quinn’s decision. Here is what the city attorneys file in their motions:
“Mr. Quinn’s decision set in motion a chain of events that led directly to the reversal of Plaintiff’s [Hood’s]convictions and these lawsuits, but the decision was not based on the discovery of any new evidence exonerating Hood . . . , such as DNA or eyewitness testimony excluding [him] from the crime—that evidence does not exist. Rather, it was the product of an intense media campaign by Hood’s attorneys involving local and international celebrities, NBC Chicago, Peacock Productions, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker Magazine.”
The chronic refusal by city attorneys to address media culpability in federal lawsuits against the police plays a powerful role in the exoneration movement and reveals a corporation counsel is unwilling to represent accused officers with the aggressive representation they require. What is the point of fighting these cases for years if the attorneys will simply roll over on a case driven by media allies in the anti-police movement? The Corporation Counsel’s refusal to address the media reduces it to little more than a pathetic, legal paper tiger, for what kind of fighting spirit is displayed by those who won’t even confront the likes of Chicago reporters?
And so it goes. Even a slight familiarity of the case undermines Felker’s despicable presentation to the city. Felker’s claim that settling the case is “fiscally prudent” is nonsense. The settlement will only generate more lawsuits against police and signal to exoneration attorneys that Chicago is weak and will settle for large sums.
Felker’s admonishment that the city has recently lost exoneration cases and that there are several other pending cases against the detectives accused in this case is a basis to settle is twisted legal logic, even for an attorney. Rather than compelling the city to settle, the fact that there are other cases pending against the detectives should be even more reason to fight each and every one, especially since the detectives were aching for a trial. Felker’s trite excuses, therefore, amount to little more than a green light to attack the police officers, a move that will cost the city millions more in settlements.
The decision to settle is a wholesale betrayal of the detectives, regarded by many veteran police officers as some of the best investigators in the history of the Chicago Police Department. These former detectives took a significant legal risk by foregoing to invoke their Fifth Amendment right in a city that will indict officers for perjury even when they are telling the truth.
One of the accused detectives, Kenneth Boudreau, is now on his own to prove what Felker won’t. Addressing media, Boudreau recently stated:
“Today I am announcing that I will be hosting a presentation sometime in January on the fleecing of Chicago out of millions of dollars by claiming wrongful convictions,” Boudreau said in a statement released to Chicago City Wire. “We will examine the evidence, grand jury testimony, pretrial testimony, trial testimony, post-conviction testimony through third stage testimony to the TIRC (Torture Inquiry & Relief Commission) pleadings, correspondence among similarly situated convicted murderers throughout the years and how their narrative changes to fit the strategy of their civil attorneys.”
It is a shame Felker does not have the fortitude of Boudreau.
Perhaps before coming into the back door of City Council committee meetings to complete her legal dog and pony show, Felker should review some of the actions of attorneys assembled by the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) over the last six years to represent accused police officers. In contrast to Felker and the Corporation Counsel, these attorneys are unafraid to vie in far more biased venues like Kim Foxx’s criminal courts or the Chicago Police Board. These attorneys do not throw the towel in before the contest even begins. They do not cower in fear from a collection of media misfits who long ago abandoned every tenet of journalism ethics.
And these FOP attorneys win.
There are deeper, more sinister consequences of not contesting the claims against the detectives in a trial. The decision to settle gives a pass to Pat Quinn and sets back the long and desperately needed campaign to return the governor’s office back to the people.
At the time Quinn commuted the sentences of Hood and Washington, the scandal-ridden ex-governor also released a man, Howard Morgan, convicted of four counts of attempted murder, with no new evidence of his innocence. Morgan pulled a gun on officers during a traffic stop and fired some 15 rounds at them, striking three. Quinn also commuted the sentence of Willie Johnson, convicted of perjury in a case that, if Johnson’s bogus claims were to be bought by a judge, could have released two convicted killers from prison and no doubt generated more multi-million-dollar lawsuits against the city.
Such collusion of the governor’s office in the exoneration industry goes back well before Quinn, all the way to George Ryan. In one of his last acts as governor, in a devastating and corrupt decision, Ryan freed four convicted killers two decades ago without any new trials, and, in some cases, without any new exculpatory evidence.
Aside from the media lapdogs, Felker has a more crucial body she can count not to question the legal nonsense she is peddling: The gaggle of aldermen charged with representing the citizens of Chicago. The vote to settle was preceded by a level of discussion indicative of perhaps the most pathetic, two-faced elected body in the nation.
There was only one question that should have been posed to Felker and then been the subject of debate: Do the attorneys think the two men are guilty and do they think that the detectives coerced a confession?
Barring that discussion, Felker’s presentation amounted to a clear message to all detectives and officers in the city of Chicago.
You are on your own.